Life-threatening accidents, vertebral damage, chronic osteopathic conditions and side-effects from medical treatment can all cause irreparable damage to patients. The consequences can be painful, debilitating and even fatal, so solutions must be developed to help the human body overcome challenges, enhance the healing process and improve patient prognosis.
Medical implant technology has developed vastly over the years, and additive manufacturing appears as the most disruptive technologies capable to transform the way patients are treated. 3D printing, paired with bio-compatible materials like titanium, is demonstrating its potential as the medical industry’s manufacturing technology of choice for life-changing solutions.
In the past, surgeons used metal mesh to replace areas of the body such as skull bones, which tended to be weak and lacked precision. 3D printing eliminates these flaws because it uses medical imaging to create a customised implant, shaped exactly according to the individual’s anatomical data. This means that the patient can be fitted with an exact match to replace the lost or damaged area of the skull.
In Sandviken, Sweden, Sandvik’s experts continue to explore the potential of AM in the medical field, especially 3D printed titanium devices. The powder plant was recently awarded the ISO 13485:2016 medical certification for its Osprey® titanium powders
“Titanium, 3D printing and the medical sector are the perfect match,” explains Harald Kissel, R&D Manager at Sandvik Additive Manufacturing.
“Titanium has excellent properties and is one of few metals accepted by the human body, while 3D printing can rapidly deliver bespoke results for an industry where acting quickly could be the difference between life and death.”
In addition to titanium’s material benefits, AM can help overcome some of the challenges when producing medical implants and prosthetics. Typically, the process of being fit for a prosthesis involves several visits to create a device that fits a patient and their needs. As a result, the time between a patient’s life-changing surgery and them receiving their device can be painstakingly slow.
“If a patient undergoes a serious accident, one that destroys areas such as the skull or spine beyond repair, they simply do not have time to spare to ensure their reconstructive devices fit correctly. Instead, they’re given solutions that work, but aren’t tailored to their bodies,” Kissel explained.
“Long waiting times and a lack of customisation can really impact how a patient feels after they’ve undergone a life-changing event or procedure. Even in 2020, there are still prosthetic patients using devices that do not move, or are simply just hooks.”
“Using computer tomography, it is now possible to optimise designs that simply cannot be produced using other manufacturing methods. What’s more, we can make our designs lighter, with less material waste and in shorter lead times. Patients could receive a perfectly matching device, in less time and using a high-performing, lightweight material.”
To date, Sandvik is involved in research projects with various scientific partners like the Swiss M4M Center in Switzerland.
“The Swiss M4M Center is intended to build up and certify a complete end-to-end production line for medical applications, like implants. Being able to facilitate this initiative through the unique material knowledge that is found within Sandvik is an empowering experience. Joining forces with an array of experts to reinvent the future of medical devices as well as the lives of thousands of people — is an experience out of the ordinary.”
Remember, you can post free of charge job opportunities in the AM Industry on 3D ADEPT Media or look for a job via our job board. Make sure to follow us on our social networks and subscribe to our weekly newsletter : Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Instagram ! If you want to be featured in the next issue of our digital magazine or if you hear a story that needs to be heard, make sure to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org